The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide as one of the finest choirs of its type. Comprising up to thirty boys (all of whom attend the Abbey’s unique Choir School) and twelve professional adult singers, known as Lay Vicars, its wide-ranging performing activities are rooted in centuries-old tradition and its repertoire ranges from plainsong and Tudor polyphony to twentieth-century masterpieces and new commissions.
Since its foundation in the late fourteenth century when the Abbey was a Benedictine monastery, the Choir’s primary purpose has been the singing of the daily services. In addition, it also plays a central role in the many royal, state and national occasions which take place here, many of which are broadcast live across the world. In recent years these have included the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; the service to celebrate the diamond jubilee of HM The Queen’s Coronation; several events forming part of the official First World War Centenary commemorations; and memorial services for many national and international figures including Peter Hall, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela and Terry Wogan.
In parallel with its liturgical work, the Choir pursues a varied programme of recordings, concerts and tours, giving performances under the direction of principal conductor James O’Donnell in the Far East, the United States, Russia, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Germany and France. In June 2012 Pope Benedict XVI invited the Choir to sing together with the Sistine Chapel Choir at a Papal Mass in St Peter’s Basilica – an unprecedented collaboration – and a return visit to Rome was made at the invitation of Pope Francis in January 2017. In the United Kingdom the Choir presents an annual concert programme in the Abbey, appears each year at the London Festival of Baroque Music, and has performed at many leading venues and festivals including the BBC Proms.
The Abbey Choir enjoys a successful recording partnership with the Hyperion label. Its critically acclaimed catalogue explores repertoire spanning six centuries and includes collections of music for the great feasts of the church year; programmes of Tudor music by Byrd, Ludford, Taverner and Tye; Parry ceremonial music with Onyx Brass; Duruflé Requiem with Britten Sinfonia; and several discs celebrating masterpieces of the Anglican choral tradition from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.